Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2017
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2017 Asbury Park Press
Author: Mike Davis


The grass is looking greener for New Jersey marijuana users.

The idea of legal pot was once a pipe dream for those who so indulged.
Not anymore. Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has pledged to sign legislation
legalizing pot within 100 days of his Jan. 16 inauguration, prompting
speculation on what that hazy world would look like.

Among the particulars that have been largely agreed upon: New
Jerseyans would be permitted to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for
personal use, and previous convictions for such possession would be
eligible for expungement.

Further, the drug would be taxed at the point of sale, generating an
estimated $300 million in tax revenue.

Currently, New Jersey has legalized medical marijuana -- which is
distributed by only six dispensaries that handle more than 15,000 patients.

But with marijuana legalization slowly becoming a reality, there are
still many questions -- whether you smoke or not -- about the basics
of legal marijuana.

When will it become legal? When can I buy it?

Legislators are expected to begin working on amendments to Sen.
Nicholas Scutari's, D-Union, marijuana legalization bill within the
first few weeks of Murphy's governorship.

A series of committee hearings will be scheduled on the bill in the
months after its introduction, meaning it likely wouldn't be voted on
until at least March or April -- though it's possible a bill won't be
voted on and signed until June.

And then? Experts say it will be at least a year -- and possibly as
long as two years -- before New Jerseyans can legally buy and smoke

"It's going to take some time. It will take a long time to review the
applications for licenses, then they have to find a place they can
operate that's consistent with local zoning rules," said Kate Bell, a
Marijuana Policy Project analyst who has handled the New Jersey
legalization efforts. "Then they have to put plants in the ground --
and it takes at least 90 days to grow a crop."

Activists, including the Marijuana Policy Project, have called for the
state to accelerate the recreational program by allowing medical
marijuana dispensaries to sell recreationally before the retail market
gets its bearings.

That means marijuana users would be able to purchase the drug from
medical dispensaries -- without a medical reason -- before the first
retail stores open.

New Jersey has one of the country's most restrictive medical marijuana
programs in the nation, with only six dispensaries and more than
15,000 medical marijuana patients, who often wait longer than a year
from receiving a doctor's recommendation to actually purchasing the

"We really should not move forward on an adult use program until we
have a strong medical cannabis program in place," said Scott Rudder,
president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association. "We want to use
that to segue into the adult use market, but it cannot be to the
detriment of the existing patients."

Here's how long it took other states where voters or legislatures have
legalized marijuana:

* COLORADO: 14 months from vote (November 2012) to retail stores
opening (January 2014)

* WASHINGTON: 18 months from vote (November 2012) to retail stores
(July 2014)

* OREGON: 23 months from vote (November 2014) to retail stores
(October 2016), but medical marijuana dispensaries sold recreationally
during the interim.

* ALASKA: 23 months from vote (November 2014) to retail stores
(October 2016).

* CALIFORNIA: 14 months from vote (November 2016) to licenses issued
(January 2018)

* MASSACHUSETTS: 14 months from vote (November 2016) to licenses
issued (January 2018)

* MAINE: About 18 months from vote (November 2016) to licenses issued
(summer 2018)
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt